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Turn of the Screw - Theatre Tour Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Is Henry James horror story chilling enough for you?
When Henry James wrote this chilling tale, he kept it open enough to be debated for decades over what really happened in the isolated mansion which a governess believes is haunted.

Turn Of The Screw, tour, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Colchester,
A Victorian governess is at the centre of the story


This new tour of Turn of the Screw keeps to the book, in that it is suggestive, but still leaves a lot of confusion and questions to be answered. The show has been brought back to stage in a combined effort by Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Mercury Theatre Colchester and Dermot McLaughlin Productions.

Four actors play all the parts in this supernatural thriller that has been recreated for stage and screen many times, including horror movie The Others starring Nicole Kidman. I caught the show early on in its tour in March at Malvern Theatres, but it is also visiting Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from April 10 to 14.

Turn Of The Screw, tour, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Colchester,
There's fine acting from a small cast


Tim Luscombe has worked on this stage adaptation, and while there is some suspense, the terror and creepiness of the novella is somewhat lost.

There's also quite a bit of confusion due to the small group of actors playing so many different roles, particularly the issue of actors Annabel Smith and Michael Hanratty doubling up as the ghosts and the children, along with other main characters.

Smith and Hanratty despite this are very impressive with energetic performances. Carli Norris, meanwhile, plays the Victorian Governess caring for two children at a remote estate who becomes convinced that the grounds are haunted. In flashbacks, she clearly narrates what happened to her in the first job of her career.

Turn Of The Screw, tour, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Colchester,
Annabel Smith and Michael Hanratty double up as children and other major roles.


Finally, there's well known Maggie McCarthy, recognisable from films and shows like Angela's Ashes, Call The Midwife and Calendar Girls, as the housekeeper. She proves to be a safe pair of hands on stage and emits a warmth and vitality from her character.

While the opening scene is one of the strongest with an uneasy tension, this doesn't continue for long and the story becomes more of a gentle mystery than horror, never bringing any real fear to the stage during the two-hour show.

It's been given an age guidance of 14 and over but it really isn't that scary. The production could also have done with using more special effects and trickery to bring a sense of edginess to the production.

A few years ago, I saw a tour for The Woman in Black that also used a small cast. In comparison, that worked extremely well and had real jump in your seat moments.

That said, this production is an interesting take on the famous story and will keep you wanting to know more, but unlike the novel, it won't leave you feeling particularly shaken or chilled.

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Why? See new version of famous ghost tale
When: Until April 14 in the Midlands
Phone: 01902 573320
Where: Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
Cost: From 14.50
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